Thousands Rally For Education At State Capitol

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OKLAHOMA CITY - Oklahoma educators, parents and students showed up in droves at the state capitol Monday hoping to get the attention of state lawmakers.

Thousands stood united, demanding more funding for our state's 678,000 public
school students and their teachers.

At issue, nearly $200 million fewer dollars to spend today than in 2009, despite some 35,000 more students.

While there were a lot of messages on signs for lawmakers to see, the main message was that funding needs to be a priority.

Ralliers want to see more money going into the classroom and they want teachers to get a raise.

One rally speaker said, "We have $300 million of oil tax revenue right under our feet and yet we are still 49th in education funding per pupil."

Robert Sommers, Oklahoma's education secretary, said, "It (the rally) really speaks volumes to how important public education is in the state of Oklahoma and nationwide."

Sommers addressed the rally and the governor's stance on the issue.

He said her office supports "the idea."

Sommers said, "We need to get more money into common education in particular and education generally and that's a priority across the board."

However, some wonder if this rally was worth sacrificing a day of learning.

Many of those in attendance used professional days to be at the capitol.

One rally speaker said, "We have to leave our students and our classrooms so that maybe our voice will be heard and our future secured."

A statement followed by loud cheers from the crowd.

Pam Deering, superintendent for Mid-Del Schools, said, "I think the choice to be here comes down to an individual choice and a district choice. In Mid-Del we stayed well represented in the classroom."

There were also students at the rally, themselves missing school, but here to witness our government at work.

Joshua Pollard, a Senior at Fort Gibson High School, said, "Before this I didn't really understand the value of a people's republic, like how a rally works and how it can really change the minds of these senators."

The Oklahoma City School District was one of those not in attendance at the rally.

The Interim Superintendent released this statement, "Our students have missed a significant amount of instructional time this year due to inclement weather days, and I am not certain that the planned rally is a convincing approach to advocate for more school funding. Our teachers can use a personal business day if they wish to participate in the rally, but as a district we will not take part.”

OKLAHOMA CITY - On Monday, thousands of Oklahomans could be seen holding up signs at the Oklahoma State Capitol, begging for education to become a top priority in the state.

One sign read "678,000 reasons to fund education," which represents the number of students in the Oklahoma Public Schools Systems around the state.

While many people at the event are educators and teachers, there are also a few students voicing their concern for their future.

Students like Phoenix Perkins are learning in crowded classrooms.

"Last year, I had a class of 32 kids and it was kind of hard for the teachers to get around to all of us," said the 12-year-old.

Parents say their children deserve better and more funding is the key to their education.

Marlow Perkins-Sikes said, "I didn't feel like everyone was learning as much as they could have if we had more teachers."

Phoenix's aunt has been a vocal advocate of public schools for years.

Marlow Perkins-Sikes helped start a group called '49th Is Not OK.'

The name represents Oklahoma's national ranking for spending per student, according to the National Education Association.

She said, "It was a grassroots parents effort to lobby for increased funding for education a couple of years ago, so of course, this is right up my alley."

For Perkins-Sikes, the Capitol rally is a free lesson she can give her nephew and her own children for years to come.

She said, "My oldest one is here with me today."

She added, "I think it's important for them to know that we're fighting for their education. And for them to come and see that as parents, as teachers, as administrators, we are here to rally because they deserve the best that we can provide them."

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